Government warns of fake HIV/Aids drugs

Zidolam-N tablets. FILE PHOTO

The National Drug Authority yesterday warned that counterfeit antiretroviral drugs – used to manage HIV infections – could find their way into the Ugandan market. NDA Executive Secretary Gordon Sematiko said in a public statement that the World Health Organisation had found counterfeit Zidolam-N drugs on the Kenyan market.

The head of drug inspection at NDA, Mr Kate Kikule, said the authority was concerned about the possibility of fake Zidolam-N drugs being smuggled into Uganda. “We have surveyed and found out that these fake drugs are not yet here but we want to alert patients to be vigilant,” Ms Kikule said.

Zidolam-N is one of the approved anti-retroviral drugs used in Uganda and NDA has urged people living with HIV/Aids and those who dispense the drug to be vigilant and avoid the counterfeit. The counterfeit Zidolam-N tablets have a reference to “batch number E100766”, a manufacturing date of November 2010 and an expiry date of October 2013, NDA said in a statement.

However, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr Asuman Lukwago, said it would be hard for the fake drugs to enter the country because of the “systematic procurement and administering” of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs).

“If it were Panadols, the patient would be at a higher risk of using a fake drug. But patients on ARVs cannot just go to the drug shop to buy medicine,” he said. “[The ARVs] are administered in the clinics and hospitals and we know our suppliers.”

Dr Lukwago said 60 per cent of the ARVs are bought from India, 30 per cent from Europe and the rest from different parts of the world.

He warned that people living with HIV/Aids who took counterfeit antiretroviral drugs could suffer diminished immunity or develop resistance to the genuine drugs. “The outcome would not be the best because the patient would not be getting the required ingredients from the medicine,” he said.